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Steve Blum: AT&T kills wired broadband service for half a million Californians

By Steve Blum

AT&T kills wired broadband service for half a million Californians

By Steve Blum
Tellus Venture Associates
Special to Santa Cruz Tech Beat

(Photo: Contributed)

October 22, 2020 — Santa Cruz, CA

AT&T’s decision to stop selling legacy DSL service – the sort that uses 1990s technology and rides on regulated phone lines – affects 547,000 Californians, 1.4% of the state’s population. 67,000 of them will completely lose the ability to buy residential wireline broadband service from a commercial provider. Rural counties will be hit hard, with Tuolumne County taking the stiffest punch: 3.4% of its population will no longer be able to get wireline broadband service at any speed. Those that have it can keep it for now, but no one can buy it any longer. The full table is below.

In our region, San Benito County won’t be affected. AT&T has upgraded its systems in the northern half of the county to at least early 2000’s vintage technology. The very rural southern half is served by Pinnacles Telephone Company, the smallest independent rural telephone company in California. Santa Cruz and Monterey counties will be hit, though. One thousand people in Santa Cruz County (0.4% of the population) and 1,200 people in Monterey County (0.3% of the population) will no longer be able to buy wireline broadband service.

These numbers are based on the most recent broadband service reports published by the California Public Utilities Commission, which are current as of 31 December 2018. The reports filed by AT&T show that legacy DSL service is its only wired broadband offering in 6,600 census blocks with a total population of 547,000 people. However, people living in most of those blocks can get broadband service from a cable company or an independent fiber to the premise provider.

Subtract them out, and there are 67,000 people in 1,300 census blocks in California where AT&T is pulling the plug on new customers with no cable company or independent wireline ISP to fill the gap. A few of those census blocks could be split between AT&T and another telco, so the actual number of people affected might be a bit lower. But not by much.

AT&T reports providing broadband service in 52 of California’s 58 counties. It has legacy DSL systems in 43 counties. The nine fully upgraded counties include several rural ones where AT&T has a minimal presence – e.g. Plumas County where it serves a single census block – or where independent rural telephone companies serve the remotest areas.

About half of the soon-to-abandoned census blocks are outside of an incorporated city or an unincorporated “census designed place”, which usually means the area is rural. The remaining half includes many unincorporated rural communities as well.

Californians losing access to AT&T wireline broadband service

County Total people served by AT&T People losing AT&T wireline service People with no wireline alternative % of population with no wireline service
Alameda 1,573,061 13,828 497 0.0%
Alpine 105 0 0 0.0%
Amador 14,598 0 0 0.0%
Butte 183,055 45,429 5,022 2.2%
Calaveras 17,709 28 0 0.0%
Colusa 5 0 0 0.0%
Contra Costa 1,088,834 22,576 644 0.1%
El Dorado 128,560 8,191 2,343 1.2%
Fresno 803,675 15,466 3,048 0.3%
Glenn 21,224 486 486 1.7%
Humboldt 86,232 11,399 709 0.5%
Imperial 148,639 13,751 329 0.2%
Kern 703,290 9,792 836 0.1%
Kings 101,888 4,458 211 0.1%
Lake 46,392 6,655 745 1.1%
Los Angeles 6,179,464 55,625 2,709 0.0%
Madera 99,716 1,186 11 0.0%
Marin 199,469 2,542 151 0.1%
Mariposa 1,606 0 0 0.0%
Mendocino 49,021 2,686 443 0.5%
Merced 198,755 5,947 687 0.2%
Monterey 388,645 2,931 1,195 0.3%
Napa 127,595 574 258 0.2%
Nevada 66,444 9,354 1,580 1.6%
Orange 2,407,283 84,192 11,428 0.4%
Placer 182,212 7,414 793 0.2%
Plumas 62 0 0 0.0%
Riverside 731,484 5,156 383 0.0%
Sacramento 1,085,698 12,762 1,146 0.1%
San Benito 52,816 0 0 0.0%
San Bernardino 482,342 2,994 37 0.0%
San Diego 3,052,279 41,182 7,283 0.2%
San Francisco 859,146 1,172 0 0.0%
San Joaquin 579,627 12,449 2,296 0.3%
San Luis Obispo 210,845 39,685 9,319 3.3%
San Mateo 734,801 9,273 262 0.0%
Santa Barbara 129 0 0 0.0%
Santa Clara 1,671,193 17,486 173 0.0%
Santa Cruz 222,320 9,348 1,028 0.4%
Shasta 120,847 27,814 3,301 1.8%
Sierra 265 0 0 0.0%
Siskiyou 20,247 72 0 0.0%
Solano 393,273 5,760 565 0.1%
Sonoma 450,890 4,933 1,074 0.2%
Stanislaus 491,163 9,921 941 0.2%
Sutter 88,143 906 229 0.2%
Tehama 34,867 0 0 0.0%
Tulare 347,408 9,846 686 0.1%
Tuolumne 22,571 2,309 1,872 3.4%
Ventura 322,334 3,692 39 0.0%
Yolo 196,167 1,210 626 0.3%
Yuba 62,478 4,434 2,045 2.6%
California 27,050,870 546,914 67,427 0.2%

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